Update on Windreach Farm's Operations due to COVID-19. MORE INFO

Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Spotlight – May 2021

Amanda Taylor – started 2012

Amanda has been visiting WindReach Farm since she was 1 year old. Of course, it took her a while before she was able to start volunteering. 

Amanda has helped in many areas at WindReach, including: animal care, therapeutic riding lessons, on-site tours, off-site visits, special events, community work days, and summer camp. Her favourite volunteer job is helping with therapeutic riding lessons and seniors’ tours. Amanda loves horses and working with individuals with disabilities, so the stables is a great fit for her. Seniors also hold a special place in her heart.

Volunteering has always been a part of Amanda’s life and she was exposed to it very early on. She sees the value and importance of volunteering and how it affects people’s lives. Amanda is not a typical teenager, and often people think she is older than her 17 years. She has learned a lot of her communication skills by helping out at WindReach and is thankful for the opportunities she has received.

Amanda brings a fresh, youthful perspective to volunteering. She is very outgoing and has a positive energy about her. Other volunteers enjoy working with her and often comment on what a mature young lady she is. “When I first met Amanda, we were working at the stables, I overheard her talking about the latest Marvel movie, which I had just seen. It cemented out friendship…such a hard worker, through all her ups and downs, and just a genuine beautiful person. For this older volunteer, she reached across the generations and has become a wonderful friend,” says volunteer Jenn M.

Amanda enjoys the feeling she gets when she is at WindReach helping others. “There’s nothing like being at WindReach Farm and I am so glad my mom (Kelly Taylor) got a job here,” says Amanda.

Amanda really enjoys taking seniors on farm tours. She is able to connect with them and loves listening to their stories of ‘back in the day’ when they lived on farms. “The seniors are great! I like sharing my love of WindReach with them and talking about the animals and Sandy, the Farm’s founder. They also like to tell me about what their life was like when they were younger and lived on a farm. It’s nice to talk with them and share stories,” says Amanda.

Spending almost all of her life with WindReach Farm being such a big and important part has had a huge impact on Amanda. When she was 8 years old, she organized a fundraiser to “support the animals” and had a backyard donate to skate in a friend’s yard. Amanda and her friends raised $150 at this event. She wanted the funds raised to go towards animal care at the Farm.

When she’s not at WindReach Farm, Amanda tries to stay active playing soccer and curling. She is very proud to be the first ever girl on Brooklin High School’s LOSSA gold medal boys curling team. She hopes to be able to get back to her sports soon. In the meantime, she has discovered a hidden talent of drawing Disney characters with sidewalk chalk.

Thank you, Amanda, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – April 2021

Joe Stokes – started Spring 2017

Joe joined the Board of Directors at WindReach Farm in the Spring of 2017, and although it has been 4 years, he says “it feels like yesterday that I joined the team.” Joe volunteered for the board because he was at a point in his personal and professional life, where he has been very fortunate, and where he thought his experience and community connections could assist the farm. Moreover, Joe wanted to give back to an organization within his community with a servant focus, so an opportunity at WindReach Farm that has such a tremendous impact on people in the Durham Region and beyond felt like a natural fit.

Joe is both an academic and an education administrator, so feels his contribution to the farm has come in the form of both administrative leadership and insight into the curricular aspects of WindReach Farm’s programming. Notwithstanding Joe’s professional background, he tries to bring passion to his volunteerism at WindReach, because there are so many participants counting on the Farm to be at it’s best, and if he can help even a little bit, he knows that he will have done his part.

A Good friend of Joe’s once said that you don’t have to volunteer, you choose to volunteer, and he thinks that sums up his emotional connection with the farm. He chooses to volunteer at WindReach because it has an amazing impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and you can realize that impact each and every day on the farm.  “WindReach has an almost magical quality to it, that permeates through the staff, amazing volunteers, the animals, and of course the farm itself. Once you step onto the farm, and feel that magic, but also witness the joy in the people whose lives are changed by our programs, you’d want to choose to volunteer hear too,” says Joe.

Joe has always done some sort of volunteerism throughout his life, but he knew joining a board would be a huge commitment, and he was right!  Joe says the last four years have been lots of hard work, but they have also been very meaningful, specifically when you can see your efforts realized through the smiles of our program participants and the quality of life enhancement that WindReach makes to everyone who steps foot on the farm. “So I suppose my biggest learning is that a little volunteering can go a long, long way, and WindReach is a place where you can give a little bit of time, and have a huge influence on someone else’s quality of life,” says Joe.

Joe has a great memory at WindReach and it’s a simple story, really.  It was spring time, the leaves had just filled the trees again, and the farm looked beautiful. Two little goats had been born on the farm named Paprika and Herb, and they were playfully bashing into each other in their pen. Joe was on his way to a board meeting and stopped to watch the goats play, and totally unprompted one of our program participants walked over to him and said that she loved the goats. That simple statement conveyed to a complete stranger, with all of it’s genuineness and vulnerability, made him realize just how life-changing WindReach can be; a place where someone can feel safe, and truly be themselves.

Joe feels that time is one of the most precious things we have in life, whether it’s spending time with our families and loved ones, or engaging in something that interests you or brightens your day. Sometimes, volunteering can be hard work, and can take up that precious time, but in his experience no matter how much time you spend volunteering at WindReach, or how hard the task at hand may be, you are always certain to have brightened your own day, and almost certainly somebody else’s.

Thank you, Joe, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – March 2021

Ginny Petch – started Fall 2017

lady smilingGinny came to Canada in 1989 along with her family and started work in daycares and nursery schools looking after children with special needs. She also volunteered providing respite for a young child from when he was a baby until he started school. About 20 years ago, Ginny started working as a Personal Support Worker in the community looking after seniors and children with special needs. In 2016, Ginny decided to call it a day and retired along with her husband.

Since retiring, Ginny has discovered the luxury of having free time on her hands and decided to look for some volunteer work that involved her childhood dream of working on a farm. She took her grandchildren on trips to WindReach Farm during March break weeks and decided to look into volunteering there. Ginny had very little experience working with farm animals except during summers in high school, feeding chickens, rabbits, and other farm animals. With the help and guidance of our farmer, Eleanor and other volunteers, Ginny was able to learn what was needed. Every time she arrives at the farm, she always finds there is something new to learn and every week is a little bit different. “You never know what to expect with some of the animals and the tricks they will get up to as they all have their own personality,” says Ginny. Arriving at the farm each Monday, she looks forward to the fresh air and the beautiful scenery, as it makes her feel alive no matter what the season, or weather.

Volunteering at WindReach has given Ginny so many memories, but one which she will always treasure was assisting Eleanor with the birthing of a lamb last spring, and having the honour of it being named after her! To this day, despite her husband’s request, they have not once had lamb for dinner. Each spring, Ginny enjoys watching everything come to life, particularly all the new baby animals.

Volunteering allows Ginny to be part of a team, and knowing that what she does provides so many benefits to all of the Farm’s participants. Being at the farm has opened her eyes and given her an appreciation as to how much work is required for WindReach to provide the programs to those who need them. She gets so much pleasure seeing the smiling faces of the visitors from various community groups, and knowing that WindReach programs are helping to improve their quality of life. She also finds it rewarding to work with young students and watch their confidence grow during their time on the farm.

Since retirement, Ginny and her husband have found time to take up cycling, which they try to do a couple of times a week. They cycle about 50 km per trip and are hoping to improve on this distance this coming summer. Ginny also loves reading, walking and participating in ‘keep fit’ classes. Her and her husband also like to travel to the Cayman Islands a couple of times a year to see their daughter and family and they look forward to making that trip again once it is safe to do so.

Ginny is looking forward to when things get back to normal and seeing all the various groups come back to WindReach.

Thank you, Ginny, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – February 2021

​Meagan Rollo – started January 2020

lady holding lambMeagan started volunteering at WindReach Farm in January 2020 for her Social Service Worker field placement. Before entering college, she debated between the Animal Care and Social Service Worker programs for quite a long time so she felt that WindReach would be a wonderful place to be. Growing up on farms while horseback riding, Meagan knew WindReach would be an amazing learning experience.

Prior to coming to WindReach, Meagan had always enjoyed working with people and animals. She brought this knowledge and experience with her to her placement at the Farm, where she continues to learn new things every day. When volunteering, Meagan always has a positive attitude, whether it is leading a tour; planning activities for different events; or working with the animals.

Her favourite thing about volunteering is working with a variety of people each day. Between staff, volunteers, other students, and participants, she is always meeting new people and learning new things. No day is ever the same, which is part of what makes WindReach so special. Meagan also loves volunteering at WindReach because she gets to spend time outside, enjoying nature.

Meagan has learned countless things through volunteering, however one thing that sticks out the most, is how much work it takes to run such an incredible place! Just being on the Farm you can see how much everyone cares about WindReach and how much effort they all put in. She has never experienced a place where the volunteers were so passionate about what they were doing, and she sees firsthand the difference it makes for the participants and visitors.

Meagan has already had many memorable moments at WindReach, but her favourite one was holding one of the newborn lambs last year and being shown how to cut the umbilical cord. Who would have thought that she could experience something like that on a Social Service Worker student placement? Meagan is thankful that WindReach staff are very dedicated to teaching their students about all aspects of the Farm, no matter what program they are in. She will always be grateful for this opportunity as it is something she will likely never get to do again.

Thank you, Meagan, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – January 2021

Sharon Semeluk – started April 2015

Sharon came to WindReach Farm back in April 2015 to inquire about volunteering with the wool program. She has a very demanding, and often stressful, job working in international patent law in downtown Toronto and needed a way to de-stress. She attended a volunteer orientation with her husband, Derek, who came as a driver and ended up deciding to volunteer with the therapeutic riding program. They wanted to commit to a full day together, so initially Sharon spent her days at the Farm with the wool group in the morning and helping with farm tours in the afternoon, stopping to enjoy lunch with Derek in between. She also helped with a Beyond the Farm Gate visit (it was chicken day) and has helped out at various special events, including a riding demonstration at the Royal Winter Fair.

Working with horses was not something she was comfortable with initially, but it didn’t take long for her to be drawn to it. Sharon decided to make the switch to join Derek with a full day at the Stables, thinking that at least she could be a side walker. She was worried about being put with one of the larger horses and didn’t want to tack up or clean horses’ feet. As fate would have it, she started out working with Alex, the gentle giant, as a side walker. Sharon is now proud to say that she has, with the kind guidance of Kendra, Pat and Andrew, progressed to being able to also tack, lead and work with any of the program horses.

Sharon had the opportunity to take lessons when it was open to volunteers and, although she is more comfortable with her feet on the ground, found that riding provided her with a valuable insight into the experience from the program participants’ perspective.

One day, when Sharon was still very green, the team at the stables found themselves short handed for the school program. Kendra asked her to lead a horse for the first time and Sharon was terrified. “The horse could tell and kept giving me strange looks”, said Sharon. She lived to tell about it and, like some of our riders, “I did it” was all she could say when the ride was over. Sharon learned early not to put limitations on herself or the riders, to be open to opportunities, to celebrate the accomplishments, and learn from the mistakes. Another lesson learned was to know when to just get out of the way.

“It has been such a pleasure being able to volunteer at WindReach side by side with my husband, and we have come to call the staff and our fellow volunteers our Farm family”, she said. She had no previous experience with therapeutic riding or working with people with disabilities, but Sharon tells everyone and anyone who will listen that if they have any free time, the WindReach Farm therapeutic riding program is the place to volunteer. There is no need for previous experience. You will be appreciated, never taken for granted and someone will always be there to help you out.

The total experience at the stables, coupled with the fresh air and exercise, turned out to be exactly what Sharon needed to de-stress from work. The riders, and the struggles they and their families have to overcome, have given her an appreciation for all that she has and a drive to continue to give back where she can.

In 2019, Sharon expanded her role further at WindReach, starting a crafting group that operated out of her home on weekends, where WindReach volunteers, their friends and family could get together to make things to sell to raise funds for WindReach. The group first showcased their wares at the 2019 Holly Jolly Jubilee. Their table included bake sale and craft items, all of which were made and donated by WindReach volunteers, riders and their families. It was an amazing success and we were looking forward to a repeat in 2020. Obviously COVID-19 changed a lot of the Farm’s plans for the year, but we were able to feature Sharon’s group’s crafts at the Halloween drive-thru pop-up shop, as well as through WindReach’s first online craft auction where the volunteer crafters added their creations to those made by the Learning-4-Life participants.

Sharon looks forward to returning to volunteering at the Stables once the therapeutic riding program is in full swing again. In the meantime, she continues to work with interested WindReach volunteer crafters (remotely for now) to ensure that they are ready when the next fundraising opportunity presents itself.

Thank you, Sharon, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – December 2020

Sally Ross – started September 2019

Sally started volunteering at WindReach Farm in September 2019. When she retired two years ago, Sally knew that volunteering was something she would do, but needed to find the right volunteer position – something that she would feel passionate about. It had to include animals, as well as contribute to the community. Sally’s husband came home from a 100 Men of Oshawa meeting one night and said that someone from WindReach Farm had been there speaking about all they do. Sally had heard of WindReach, but it never crossed her mind to look into their volunteer program. She attended a Volunteer Orientation session, and after hearing about all the programs and opportunities, she knew this was a place she wanted to be.

Choosing a program was more difficult than she thought because there were several that interested her. In the end, Sally stuck to her ‘farm-girl/horse-lover’ roots and chose to volunteer at the stables. She knew she would love it, having ridden and been around horses since the age of five on her family farm. Since being at the stables, Sally has been involved in all aspects of the therapeutic riding program – stall cleaning, grooming, tacking, leading, and assisting the instructors and riders with whatever they require.

Soon after starting, Sally knew it was not just the horses that kept her coming back. The stables staff and volunteers were very helpful, supportive and fun to work with, and the riders were a blessing to be around. She gets excited to meet new riders each session and to re-connect with returning participants from past sessions. She enjoys talking to them and hearing what they have to say. “The interaction with people of all ages and abilities has raised my patience and compassion bar noticeably. It is extremely rewarding to be a member of the (WindReach) stables family and know that my small part has helped someone connect with their horse, learn a new skill and, above all, have a lot of fun.”

During this past summer, with limited activity at the Farm, Sally got involved with the drive-thru events. She also joined the bingo team in September because she just felt driven to help more and, with the Red Barn Auditorium being so close to home, Sally thought, “Why not?!” When the other programs open up again in the future, Sally looks forward to adding a few more volunteer opportunities to her schedule.

Sally feels her whole experience has been memorable. “Just ask my family and friends who, when they see me coming, are probably thinking: Here comes Sally. She’ll have a WindReach story for us again today,” she laughs.

Sally encourages anyone interested in volunteering to consider WindReach Farm. If they want to be at a friendly place with a large variety of programs to choose from; and if they like to be around animals, people, and nature, then it’s a perfect fit! WindReach truly does inspire, empower and change lives.

Thank you, Sally, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – November 2020

Patricia Mansvelt-Beck – started May 2017

volunteer smiling with Christmas hatTricia started volunteering at WindReach Farm in May 2017 following the recommendation of a friend. Tricia has always had a love of animals and originally volunteered with the therapeutic riding program. Shortly after starting to volunteer, an opportunity arose to volunteer in the wool program and she thought this would be a great fit.

When Tricia first started volunteering in the therapeutic riding program, she helped out as a side walker during lessons and with cleaning tack. Besides meeting regularly with other wool volunteers, she helps with the summer camp by providing wool activities for the campers; and volunteers with special events both on and off site. Tricia enjoys volunteering in Toronto at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair booth, where visitors enjoy watching wool volunteers spin, card, and tease wool, and create needle-felted animals/decorations. Other off-site events include the Whitby Santa Claus Parade and Parks Canada events. During on-site events, she has helped by participating in wool activities at the RCMP Musical Ride, Founder’s Day, the Holly Jolly Jubilee and, most recently, Tricia organized the wool activity area, volunteers, and decorations for our two-day Halloween Drive-Thru event.

Once she retired 10 years ago, she felt it was important for her to give back. Tricia says “the feeling of belonging to organization that supports so many that need a little extra special care, is extremely rewarding. The interaction, meeting so many amazing people of all ages, and the smiles/reactions on the faces of the participants warms my heart and puts a big smile of my face.”

A while ago, a friend asked Tricia if she could make some holiday decorations that could be used as a ‘thank you’ for clients/friends, so Tricia needle-felted some adorable Santas for her friend to use. When Tricia delivered the Santas, her friend presented her with a sizeable cheque to donate to the Farm for her efforts. She continues to be amazed at the heartfelt generosity of people that understand the importance of our organization.

WindReach Farm is a unique organization that offers something to some very special children and adults that may not have the same opportunity that you or I might have. Tricia believes that everyone deserves happiness and love in their lives, and she thinks that WindReach tries to bring that to so many.

Thank you, Tricia, for all that you do at WindReach Farm. 

One person CAN make a difference!


Volunteer Spotlight – October 2020

Cathy Belanger – started March 2015

Cathy started volunteering at WindReach Farm in March 2015. Her daughter Erika volunteered to fulfill her high school’s community service hours, at Michelle M’s therapeutic riding stable 15 years ago. They were already a horsey family and it was a perfect fit for them. There were times that Cathy was asked to help out. She loved it and told herself that when she retired, this would be what she finds time for, to volunteer in the community.  Cathy retired five years ago and heard about WindReach through friends that had children riding at the Farm. She was eager to start volunteering.

Cathy mostly helps out at the stables. Initially, she started out grooming, tacking and leading the horses. She then started taking lessons with Pat Bullock, the Farm’s Coordinator of Equine Services. With some experience under her belt, Cathy now helps with training new volunteers in how to assist with lessons and working out any kinks before a rider gets on a horse. She feels honoured that the staff trust her with all the wonderful horses. After five years, she feels they are her horses too!

It’s more than the love of the horses that appeals to Cathy; the children and adults who come to ride are wonderful too! Getting to know them and sharing this special time with them is humbling. Their parents and caregivers have shown Cathy that dedication and unconditional love can create a happy life for those with so many challenges. The staff at WindReach understand their participants’ needs and their expertise, kindness and patience create an open and respectful environment for everyone.

Cathy can recall many memorable moments. The one that stands out the most took place in the outdoor arena with the instructor, another volunteer and a four-year-old little boy getting on the horse for his first lesson ever. The instructor was asking him all kinds of questions and he answered every question and even asked some of his own. He spoke with the horse and patted her gently. Cathy looked over at his mother and she was crying. At first, Cathy thought they were doing something wrong. His mom then told her between sobs that her son could speak, but he rarely did, and now they couldn’t get this little guy to stop talking; and then everyone was crying!

Cathy tells anyone looking for a place to volunteer that wants a happy working environment, great people and staff, and an opportunity to work with horses, to come to WindReach. She loves it so much that she brought her beloved horse, Maddie to board at the Stables where she gets love and great care.

Thank you, Cathy, for all that you do at WindReach Farm. 

One person CAN make a difference!


Volunteer Spotlight – September 2020

Agnes Shaw – started September 2018

Our Summer Volunteer Spotlight is on Agnes Shaw. Agnes started volunteering at WindReach in September 2018 and has jumped right into her role with ease.

Agnes volunteers because she has always enjoyed working with people and animals, making WindReach a perfect fit for her. She spent her career as a small animal veterinarian and brings with her an understanding and appreciation of the human-animal bond. Agnes knows animals touch a deep place in so many people and finds it a privilege to engage in the interactions between the farm animals and the Farm’s participants and visitors.

Agnes enjoys seeing people young and old light up when they first hold a chicken or rabbit on their laps. “It is wonderful to see someone who was a bit fearful at first being able to hand feed a sheep or goat,” says Agnes.

She has learned that many wonderful people work incredibly hard to make other people’s lives better. WindReach brings out the best in people and has had a positive impact on many individuals in her community.

Besides all of her veterinarian skills, Agnes is a wonderful photographer and on a number of occasions has offered her wonderful photography skills to come up and take pictures of the WindReach Farm property and animals. You will be able to see some of her work when we complete and launch the new version of the Farm’s website later this year.

Agnes chooses to donate her time as it makes her happy to be able to make a small difference in the world. Thank you, Agnes.

One person CAN make a difference!


Volunteer Spotlight – Summer 2020

Marie Akins – started 2019

Our Summer Volunteer Spotlight is on Marie Akins. Marie started volunteering at WindReach Farm in January 2019 and has been a wonderful, dedicated volunteer ever since.

Marie came to us as a Durham College placement student in the animal care program and she volunteered at the Stables, assisting with horse care, chores, lessons and wherever she was needed. She easily completed her almost 200 placement hours and wanted to stay on. Her placement went so well she was hired as a weekend staff at the Stables and continued to work on weekends and stat holidays until COVID-19 hit. She pitched in and filled in several weekends and holidays to help cover many shifts from the Fall of 2019 to March 2020.

Since the Farm had to shut down due to COVID-19 in March, Marie has continued to volunteer almost full-time hours during the week as well as on weekends to help out Pat and Andrew with all of the horse care and chores at the Stables. With protocols and procedures having to adapt due to COVID-19, we have had to keep the number of people on the Farm to a minimum, thus making more work for the handful of staff and volunteers, but that hasn’t deterred Marie! Her dedication and passion have been incredibly helpful and appreciated.

Most recently, Marie helped to transform the star of our drive-throughs, Abby into a stunning unicorn that delighted visiting children and adults alike. Marie took great pride and care in dressing her up as a unicorn for our June and July drive-throughs, and don’t worry, if you haven’t seen our unicorn yet, I’m sure she will be joining us again for the August 21st and 23rd drive-throughs.

Thank you, Marie for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!

Volunteer Spotlight – June 2020

Rosemary Oliver – started 2007

June’s Volunteer Spotlight is on Rosemary Oliver. Rosemary started volunteering at WindReach Farm in 2007 and has been a very dedicated volunteer ever since.

Rosemary initially helped with animal care on the Farm side (feeding, watering, and cleaning pens), but she does so much more now. She is an extremely talented and creative person, who uses her skills – both existing and newly learned – in many ways at WindReach.

She is the lead volunteer in our wool group and helps with the entire wool process from sorting the wool after the sheep have been sheared, to washing, teasing, carding, dyeing and spinning. She and the wool group have created many products using the wool – felted soaps, needle felted animals and knit products   to name a few.

This past month, Rosemary took it upon herself to sew several masks for the staff and a handful of volunteers who are on site working at WindReach through the COVID-19 closure. The masks are washable with a pocket between two layers, so that a non-woven layer can be added in for better protection. Rosemary had lots of beautiful patterned material that she used to create these farm-themed masks.

Most masks that you see out in the community are solid and can block visual cues, such as facial expressions, lip-reading, and emotions. All of these cues are critical for deaf and hard of hearing people to fully communicate. One of our staff, Andrew is deaf and uses both sign language and lip-reading to communicate with others. When we asked our volunteers for help to find or make a mask that is translucent over the mouth, Rosemary jumped at the challenge to create more masks, and of course she was successful! She will be dropping off more masks for us so that the staff and volunteers will be able to successfully communicate with Andrew while wearing a mask for safety.

Thank you, Rosemary, for all that you do at WindReach Farm.

One person CAN make a difference!